News & Blog

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 Guest Blogger: Carrie Roper, Literacy Coordinator and Kent Companies' Instructor

Three days a week, Baldo gets up before dawn to attend an English class at 5 AM before his work shift begins. The two-Kent Companieshour class is held for Baldo and 20 of his colleagues at their workplace, Kent Companies

Baldo’s English class is part of the Literacy Center’s Customized Workplace English program that provides customized classes on site at local companies and businesses. The classes are designed around the work that learners encounter at their job, and are offered at times that are convenient for the employees. For Baldo, this means coming to English class before his shift so that he can learn the English he needs communicate with other workers and succeed at his job.

Q & A with Ariel DuVal Zinn

Interviewed by Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

At the Literacy Center of West Michigan, we are serious about not just talking the talk of literacy but also walking the walk. May2018 Michael Crumb copy copyMost of our staff members are also tutors themselves.

Ariel DuVal Zinn is the Literacy Center's AmeriCorps Coordinator, and has been tutoring Mike Crumb since February 2016. In this month's Q & A, Ariel tells us about her experience as a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Center.

May 2018

Index Card Games

Blogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor)

One of the many strengths of the Adult Tutoring Program here at the Literacy Center is the number of resources available to our volunteer tutors. While we thoroughly train and prepare tutors with leveled and relevant textbooks, we know that working from a single book for two hours straight can become quite boring.

Thankfully, we equipped the Tutor Library with many reference books to help tutors find new and exciting material for each lesson. Today we will be discussing one of said books, titled Index Card Games for ESL, which provides tutors with fun word games for every subject and level.

Stories & Activities for Parents

Blogger: Thomas Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

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As the family literacy coordinator, I am always looking for tools to help parents connect to schools. From Home to School is a supplementary resource filled with common scenarios that parents will encounter. Tutors have often mentioned the great discussions that happen with parent learners when going through the book.

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One thing is clear from West Michigan business owners: the labor market is tight. With an unemployment rate of 4% as of January 2018, employers are actively searching for innovative ways to attract and retain talent. Irwin Seating Company, a Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company, was no exception. They had a number of temporary employees without GEDs or diplomas who had applied for permanent employment, but were unable to get past the interview stage due to their literacy barriers.

Connector, partner, bridge-builder, advocate. These are the words that everyone in town uses to describeJohn has led us to engage John Helmholdt, recipient of this year’s Ledy Award for Community Engagement.

For the last 10 years, John has used these skills in his role as the Executive Director for Communications and External Affairs at Grand Rapids Public Schools to build social capital and strengthen confidence in our city’s public school system. 

April 2018

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

The Challenger Adult Reading Series is one of the most enduring and user-friendly publications I have encountered in adult education.  Our adult learners and volunteer tutors all love the high-interest reading, targeted exercises, consistent formatting, and wide variety of topics. When using Challenger, learners can work closely with a tutor to explore stories from around the globe.  The reading levels range from almost non-reader to GED preparation.  We recommend this series to both our adult basic education (ABE) and English language learners (ESL). 

Cheri Stanard will be honored with the Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award at the Literacy Center's Spellebration event on May 10, 2018. To learn more about the event and purchase tickets, visit www.literacycenterwm.org/spellebration. Current tutors are invited to attend the event at a reduced price. 

Cheri Stanard is the kind of person who finds her own joy by giving of herself to others. Her generous energy has been spellebration logo clearancefelt by the staff and learners at the Literacy Center, and we are eager to recognize her with this year’s Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award. “Cheri is one of the kindest people I know,” says Literacy Coordinator, Katherine Payne. “Her warmth and her unwavering patience positively impact the educational success and social engagement of her learners.”

April 2018 Kelly Perutelli

Q & A with Kelly Perutelli 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator) 

Kelly Perutelli is a writer, a social worker, and a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. Since May 2017, Kelly has met each week with her learner, Idalmis, to work on specific goals like conversation skills, workplace literacy, and community involvement. Kelly agreed to share her experiences as a tutor, with the hope of encouraging others to step into this role.

Guest blogger Fritz Crabb worked with Tony Campbell for many years at Heart of West Michigan United Way. In addition to being close friends, the two shared a passion for educating young people in this community. 

When Tony Campbell arrived at Heart of West Michigan United Way, he arrived with the resume, the personality, and theTony Spellebration intelligence to hit the ground running. And he did just that. Tony became a fixture in the non-profit community locally and throughout Michigan, finding ways to connect divergent groups and to get things done.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator, writes about attending last month's TESOL International Convention

During the last week of March, several Literacy Center staff members and instructors attended the TESOL (Teaching TESOL 1 copyEnglish to Speakers of Other Language) 2018 International Convention in Chicago. There were over 6,500 attendees and some 1,000 educational sessions to choose from, so we were able to meet and learn from other English teaching professionals from around the world.

Oxford Picture Dictionary

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

April 2018

We are excited to announce the newest addition to the tutor library: The Oxford Picture Dictionary.

This 288-page paperback resource holds a goldmine of support for vocabulary teaching and language development. With over 4,000 English words and phrases, this dictionary supplies vibrant contextual illustrations that help learners understand the unit themes with bright, engaging artwork.

Mark Peters is the CEO of Butterball Farms, Inc. and the Chair of the Literacy Center's Donor Development committee

Mark PetersLiteracy. Why is it important?  Well, if you are reading this, you may actually take your literacy for granted.  But imagine for a moment that reading this was a matter of life and death. Maybe your own, or maybe that of a loved one. Imagine that this paragraph was the dosage instructions for one of your parent’s heart medicines, and you could not read it.  The reality is that 10-15% of the adult population in West Michigan would not be able understand this paragraph.

 Welcome Newcomers | American Culture

UntitledBlogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor) 

If you and your learner are looking for a book series containing relevant and applicable information about life in the United States, the Welcome Newcomers series might be just what you need.

This series is for beginning level learners who are new to the United States. Each of these short books tackles an aspect of American life, including schools, money, food, and culture. The Literacy Center has stocked many books from this series in the Tutor Library. 

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Stand up for Stand Out

Blogger: Tom Rodgers (Literacy Coordinator)

Stand Out is an excellent comprehensive textbook series for an English language learner. The series features textbooks and workbooks at a variety of levels that are appropriate for many learners, and also align with the CASAS testing system.

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Guest blogger: Phil Wittry
Phil is a Senior I.T. Manager and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April of 2017. 

 

I came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan in 2017 after serving as a literacy and GED tutor in Cincinnati. I had grown to love the 1-1 connection in helping students, especially adults, make the leaps to achieve goals for themselves and their families. When I moved to West Michigan, I wanted to do similar volunteering with the Literacy Center.

Navi Gill is an AmeriCorps member who served as a family literacy tutor before becoming a family literacy ELL instructor. 

One of the very first learners I was matched with was a young woman named Sah. Sah came from Burma to the United NaviStates as a refugee after spending many years in a refugee camp. She sought out the services of the Literacy Center because she wanted to improve her English conversation and reading skills in order to be able to help her child succeed in school and to find meaningful work. At first I was admittedly nervous to meet with someone who had overcome so much in their short life, but Sah’s kind demeanor and welcoming smile during our first lesson immediately put any anxieties I had to rest.

Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

Banza Mukalay grew up in Congo, the second largest country in Africa. After attending school for 12 years, he graduated Banzaas a mechanic in 1996. Banza got married after high school and a year later, two major things happened: he and his wife became pregnant with a girl, and a war began.

Banza and his wife escaped the war while his wife was pregnant and hid in a neighboring village. Once the war was over and his home town of Kalemie went through a regime change, Banza’s family moved back home. The peace did not last long, and a new war began in 1998. It was at that point that Banza and his mother, wife, child, brothers, and sisters, fled across Lake Tanganyika into Tanzania.

On November 6, 1998 Banza and his family became refugees and were sent to live in the refugee camp. He would live there for 15 years, and three of his four children would be born in the refugee camp. During that time, he worked as a security guard for World Vision, a social worker for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and was ordained as a pastor by the United Methodist Church. Banza led a church in the refugee camp for two years before finally gaining access to the United States.

Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using The Change Agent in Adult Education

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)Through the Lens of Social Justice copy

In an effort to provide a greater number of resources for our tutors, the Adult Tutoring Program has worked to add new materials to the reference section of our tutor library. One newly added title is “Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using the Change Agent in Adult Education.” This book may be used in tandem with the Change Agent, an adult education newsletter, or independently as a reading resource for learners or a guide for cultural competency in addressing social justice issues.

The three chapters explore social justice as it applies to the adult learner, looking to connect the classroom with the larger community to which our learners contribute. Chapter one explores how social justice issues can be addressed through a learner’s literacy goals. The topics available for reference range from life skills materials to personal narratives, to High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation. Both the life skills materials and the personal narratives are structured for easy use in tutoring sessions, enabling these examples to be directly applied to the lesson. Outlines are given for pre- and post-reading activities, encouraging learners to engage in social issues that affect their daily lives. Final support is provided for learners hoping to engage in civic action to better their communities.

Citizenship: Passing the Test

Blogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Tutor)

 

For any English language learner living in the United States, the Citizenship test is daunting. Every step of the process, IMG 2915 copy copyfrom filling out forms to memorizing 100 civics questions, can be challenging. If your learner is preparing for their citizenship test, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has many resources to help them study and prepare.

Citizenship: Passing the Test is a series of textbooks available in the Tutor Library. This series consists of three books ranging in level from low beginning to intermediate. The first, titled Literacy Skills, is written for low beginning level learners. This book comes with an audio CD and introduces learners to relevant vocabulary through writing, reading and listening activities. Some examples of vocabulary words include flag, president, state, and Washington, D.C. This book is great for learners who are just beginning their literacy studies.

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